Critic Alan Cheuse says Canadian short story writer Alice Munro's new collection, Dear Life: Stories, is both arresting and worth reading.
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel with good news for short story fans.
Canadian writer and master of the short story Alice Munro has published a new collection. It's called "Dear Life." And our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it's a must read.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: "Dear Life," dear means precious. It can also mean expensive. Most of the stories in this new collection take place in small Ontario towns, unpretentious settings for Munro's powerful propensity to reveal the nature of paradoxes in the every day, as in the story titled "Corrie," in which a small-town affair turns out costing literally much more than a duped partner might ever have imagined. In the piece called "Amundsen," a teacher takes a job in a remote hospital for sickly children and discovers the lifetime cost of first love. "Leaving Maverley" gives us some unsuspected twists and turns that eventually transform deep grief on the part of a character whose role goes from minor to major over the course of only about 20 pages.
In the story "Train," a young veteran just home from World War II hops a train, and after riding for a while, jumps from it. Jumping off the train, Munro writes, was supposed to be a cancellation. You roused your body, readied your knees to enter a different block of air. You looked forward to emptiness. And instead, what did you get? An immediate flock of new surroundings asking for your attention in a way they never did when you were sitting on the train and just looking out the window.
The ride, the jump, the surmise, it's that feeling of holding on for dear life and then letting go that these sometimes oddly constructed but always powerful stories reward us with.
SIEGEL: That's our own Alan Cheuse with his review of the new short story collection from Alice Munro called "Dear Life." And while we have your attention, book lovers, a reminder that our next Backseat Book Club pick is "The Red Pyramid" by Rick Riordan. Email your questions for the author to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @nprbackseat. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.